Northern Ireland

Racial Equality Strategy consultation launched by NI leaders

Foreign families living in Northern Ireland have been the target of recent racist attacks
Image caption Foreign families living in Northern Ireland have been the target of recent racist attacks

A public consultation on a draft racial equality strategy for Northern Ireland has been launched.

It was launched on Thursday by the First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

The proposals have been developed with minority ethnic representative groups and representatives of the wider community.

There has been a spate of hate crimes in Northern Ireland in recent months.

Launching the consultation, Mr Robinson said Northern Ireland society had "changed dramatically" over the past decade and had been enhanced by the rich diversity of those people who have made their home there.

"They make a valuable contribution to all our lives and any actions that make people feel unwelcome, vulnerable or intimidated must be condemned by us all," he said.

"Nobody should be judged on the colour of their skin, their political or religious background or race."

He said the consultation was an opportunity for "all sections of our community" to "voice their views" on how to make Northern Ireland a society that respected diversity.

The first minister said the executive was committed to "stamping out" all forms of racism and to making Northern Ireland a peaceful and tolerant place where everyone feels welcome and valued.

He encouraged anyone with an interest or contribution to make to contribute to the consultation process.

'Mutual respect'

The deputy first minister said he "unreservedly" condemned the recent race hate crimes and all forms of intimidation.

"The executive is determined to promote equality, mutual respect and tolerance for all people in society," he said.

"We must develop a society where racial equality and diversity is supported, understood and respected.

"Social, cultural and religious diversity should help build bonds between people not create conflict."

Mr McGuinness said the executive was determined to "tackle racial inequality head-on", but said politicians could not do this alone.

"Through this consultation document we seek to gather a wide range of views from anyone with an interest in racial equality," he said.

"Consultations like this are so important because they provide an opportunity for all of us to share our knowledge and experience in a way in which we can make a difference in people's lives.

"If we are to combat racism and racial inequalities we need the support and participation of all sections of society."

The public consultation period on the document will run until 10 October 2014.

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